1:22.5 SCALE DIESEL SWITCHER
Manufacturer: : LGB of America, 6444 Nancy Ridge Drive, San Diego, CA 92121. Price: Ready-to-run 21900 European style 0-4-0 diesel switcher $367.50 suggested list.
LGB'S DIESEL SWITCHER model 21900 may be an exact replica of a German State Railway prototype or it may be freelance. We have no accurate information either way and, for the purpose of this review, the answer is incidental. The model's critical feature is its ability to uncouple automatically whenever you want it to with only a twist of the knob on your power pack. LGB calls it the "Duo® System" and it reportedly took two years to develop.
Voltage initiates uncoupling. The loop part of the hook-loop coupler is thicker than normal and consists of dovetailing upper and lower halves. As you advance the throttle slowly, instead of the locomotive's moving, the Duo System senses the direction of travel, tells the appropriate uncoupler to absorb the voltage, causes its hook to lower, and shifts the lower half of the loop forward (away from the direction of travel). The effect of that sequence is to uncouple the locomotive from any hook-loop coupler, whether it uses single or double hooks. When the coupler has disengaged, you advance the throttle a little more and the locomotive begins to move away from the car.
As the photo indicates, the model has a pair of bulbs on the cab roof. They indicate the state of the couplers. When they are off, the couplers are in the "normal" position. If you want to run the locomotive without uncoupling, advance the throttle fairly quickly, being certain the yellow bulb illuminates only briefly. The higher voltage will "bypass" the uncoupling circuit and the loco will start normally.
If you want to uncouple from a car, advance the throttle gradually until the yellow light on the roof turns on. Leave the throttle knob where it is until the red bulb also lights up. That means the uncoupling sequence has begun; the hook will drop and, as the lower half of the loop moves forward, it will cause the hook on the mating coupler (if it has a hook) to drop, too. At that point you may advance the throttle and the locomotive will move away from the car it has just disengaged.
Once the engine is underway, the coupler components return to their normal positions and, if you want to re-couple, you may do that as you would with any regular hook-loop coupler.
If you want to push a car (or a string of cars) without coupling to them, set the direction of travel on the power pack opposite the direction you want to push the cars and slowly advance the throttle until the yellow and red lights turn on. Then change the direction of travel and push the car into position. Stop the locomotive; the coupler will disengage the car. When you again change the direction of travel on your power pack, the coupler will return to its normal position and you may advance the throttle more quickly to move the locomotive away.
The model has LGB's usual three position switch in the cab so you may turn off all power, only activate the three head or tail lights (lighting is constant and directional), or power the lights and the motor. Other features include interior cab detail and lighting, an engineer figure, and a traction tire.
The 21900 is a more attractive upgrade of LGB's older and similar 2090 locomotive. The new version has more detailing and is extremely handsome with its red superstructure and counterweights contrasting with the black underbody, headlamps, handrails and grab irons, hood cover, and air filter. The pebbled roof is dark gray.
In 1:22.5 scale, the model measures 14 feet long over the body and 19 feet over the coupler loops, 7 feet wide across the cab, and about 11 feet high from the railhead to the top of the light bulbs on the cab roof. It consists almost exclusively of very high quality plastic castings and, as we expect from LGB, the caliber of parts, construction, and operation is topnotch. The model runs exceptionally smoothly and quietly and, for an 0-4-0, pretty slowly-about 5 scale miles per hour. As with most 0-4-0 mechanisms, the locomotive tends to start and stop abruptly so you do have to practice a few times before you can judge how to achieve the smoothest operation. Overall, though, performance is very good. The model easily will pull half a dozen American style freight cars and, since it is a switcher, we stopped our test there.
Note: LGB has designed this model to operate only with power packs using pure, filtered direct current. If your pack has any form of pulse power, it could confuse the uncoupling circuitry.
If you use hook-loop couplers, enjoy hands-off uncoupling, and appreciate high quality, you should visit your dealer for a demonstration. You will almost certainly conclude that LGB's 21900 is an excellent product.-RR